Anak Mindanao, Zambo lawyers, artist and Imam file third petition from Mindanao vs Anti-Terror Act

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 07 August) – Anak Mindanao (AMIN) party-list, two Basilan-based Representatives to Congress, four Moro lawyers, an artist and an Imam have filed a petition before the Supreme Court asking it to declare unconstitutional RA 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, the third petition filed by Mindanawons, the second this week.

In their petition mailed on Tuesday, the petitioners – AMIN, represented by party-list Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan; Basilan’s lone district Rep. and House Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman; lawyers Satrina Mohammad, Jamar Kulayan, Alman-Najar Namla and Bensaud Degusman;  Rameer Tawasil, visual artist/designer and peace advocate; and Sheikh Jamsir Jainal, an Imam who regularly gives Friday sermons in a mosque – cited seven points why the law should be declared unconstitutional, including lack of quorum, with only 25 members present at the House of Representatives when it voted on the then House Bill 6875 on June 5.

The petitioners said the Congress “gravely abused its discretion or exceeded its jurisdiction” when it enacted RA 11479 despite lack of quorum;  “when the means it employed to prevent terrorism are both unreasonable and unconstitutional;” that by punishing inciting and proposal to commit terrorism, the law “curtails petitioners’ right to free exercise and free expression;”  that Congress gravely abused its discretion in granting the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) the power to designate and proscribe terror suspects on mere suspicion; in granting the ATC “the power to issue written authority to take custody of persons suspected of committing terrorism or conspiracy thereof;” in granting the ATC the “power to detain, without charge, terror suspects beyond three days; and that the law is “replete with unclear and vague provisions and definitions violating the people’s right to be informed of what constitute the punishable act/acts.”

The petition for Certiorari and Prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court and Article VIII, Section 16 of the 1987 Constitution with application for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Injunction was filed against the Anti-Terrorism Council,  composed of Executive Secretary and ATC chair Salvador Medialdea, National Security Adviser and ATC Vice Chair Hermogenes Esperon Jr., and ATC members Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Local Governments Secretary Eduardo Ano, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan, and ATC Secretariat members Executive Director Mel Georgie Racilla of the Anti-Money Laundering Council,  Director-General Alex Paul Monteagudo of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency; and the Senate and House of Representatives headed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

Sangcopan and Hataman, who voted against the passage of the anti-terror bill, said the House “did not have the required quorum” when it passed then House Bill 6875 and they were also “prevented from introducing any amendment.”

The remote voting conducted on June 5, the petition noted, “also does not have any foundation in the Constitution.”

HB 6875 was approved on final reading on June 5 with only 25 members physically present in the session hall in Quezon City while the rest voted remotely “using the ‘Zoom’ and their ‘Viber Chat Group.”

“This is unprecedented and without Constitutional basis,” the petition said.

Kulayan told MindaNews that the House did not revise its rules on physical presence of members in session unlike the Senate which revised its rules to allow participation and voting online.

Kulayan and fellow lawyers Mohammad, Namla and Degusman are members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines who swore to support the Constitution and are also enforcing the same rights to “free exercise” and of “free expression”

Tawasil is a visual artist promoting Tausug culture and history. The petition said some of his artworks depict the horrors of war and violence that Moros endured over the centuries. “The assailed law threatens the continued free exercise of his profession as his artworks may be construed as promoting terrorism and violence,” it said.

Jainal is an imam who regularly gives Friday sermons in mosque.  The law “threatens to punish him for inciting terrorism once he discusses Jihad during Friday sermons or whenever he give lectures on the subject.”

“Collectively, petitioners are restrained by the assailed law from freely and openly discussing their religious beliefs and conveying the same,” the petition said.

The petition is the third from Mindanao.

The first was filed on July 23 by Moro lawyers Algamar Latiph, Bantuas Lucman, Musa Malayang, and Dalomilang Parahiman. The second on August 3 by five Mindanawons — a Moro leader, a human rights worker and three journalists — and an organization catering to the education of Indigenous Peoples or Lumads, noting that “counter-terrorism with no regard for human rights cannot win the hearts and minds of the people against terrorism nor can it suppress violent extremism.”

The fourth with petitioners from MIndnao, was filed on Friday,  the 26th petition nationwide.  It was filed by 15 petitioners, nine of them Lumads (Indigenous Peoples) and Moro in Mindanao.

Other Mindanawons who went to the Supreme Court to question the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act are retired Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, who hails from Davao City; and Bayan Muna Reps. Carlos Isagani  Zarate of Davao and General Santos cities and Eufemia Cullamat  of Surigao del Sur. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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